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Cancer Res. 1994 Mar 15;54(6):1450-7.

A phase I study of swainsonine in patients with advanced malignancies.

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Toronto Hospital, Department of Medical Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, Ontario.


Swainsonine, an alpha-mannosidase inhibitor which blocks Golgi oligosaccharide processing, represents a new class of compounds that inhibit both rate of tumor growth, and metastasis, in murine experimental tumor models. In this first phase I study, the quantitative and qualitative toxicities of swainsonine have been studied in patients given a continuous i.v. infusion over 5 days, repeated at 28-day intervals. Dose levels were escalated in increments of 100 micrograms/kg/day from 50-550 micrograms/kg/day. Nineteen patients with both solid tumor and hematological malignancies were given a total of 31 courses. Hepatotoxicity, particularly in patients with liver metastases, was the dose-limiting toxicity. The maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and the recommended starting dose (MTD -1 level) were 550 and 450 micrograms/kg/day, respectively. Common side effects included edema, mild liver dysfunction, a rise in serum amylase, and decreased serum retinol. Acute respiratory distress syndrome possibly precipitated by swainsonine resulted in a treatment-related death in a patient with significant pretreatment hepatic dysfunction. One patient with head and neck cancer showed > 50% shrinkage of tumor mass for 6 weeks after treatment. Two patients with lymphangitis carcinomatosis on chest X-ray noted improvement in cough and shortness of breath during the infusion of swainsonine and for 1 week thereafter. Clearance and serum half-life for swainsonine were determined to be approximately 2 ml/h/kg, and 0.5 day, respectively. Golgi oligosaccharide processing, a putative anticancer target for swainsonine was inhibited in peripheral blood lymphocytes as evidenced by a marked decrease in leukoagglutinin binding after 5 days of treatment. Oligomannosides in patient urine increased 5-to 10-fold over the 5 days of treatment, indicating that tissue lysosomal alpha-mannosidases were also blocked by swainsonine. Urine oligomannoside accumulation reached steady state at 3 days, approximately 1 day after serum drug levels reached steady state. The fraction of HLA-DR-positive cells in peripheral blood lymphocytes increased following 5 days of swainsonine treatment, an effect similar to that observed for peripheral blood lymphocytes from normal subjects cultured with swainsonine. No significant changes in CD3, CD4, CD8, CD16, and CD25 were observed. Swainsonine produces minimal toxicity when administered i.v. to cancer patients at dosages that inhibit both Golgi alpha-mannosidase II and lysosomal alpha-mannosidases. Detection of hepatic metastases or liver enzyme abnormalities prior to treatment predict for more significant toxicity.

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